We're back into another retro race and this week it's Austria, a track that has recently returned to the F1 calendar but was a prominent fixture for quite a few decades. After a wet qualifying session the cars were pretty scrambled as they lined up on the grid, promising an interesting race whatever the result.
Having Fisichella and Alesi on the front row and Coulthard staring from P16 meant there was always going to be fireworks on the first lap, and we weren't disappointed. Olivier Panis stalled on the grid, and Rosset got it way too into the first corner and smacked into Johnny Herbert and the Minardis.
As Salo tried to plant his foot and swing his car around he unceremoniously slammed it into the front wing of the stranded David Coulthard who was starting to wish he hadn't bothered getting out of bed that morning. Meanwhile, expertly avoiding the chaos, Hakkinen and Schumacher had taken control and were making a fist of things for the lead.
Ferrari had their tyres working beautifully and Schumacher held a noticeable performance delta over Mika, but an impatient move on the outside of the Finn saw him come off second best and falling behind Fisichella and into third place. By the time Schumacher recovered P2, Hakkinen had his tyres up to temperature and it appeared that Schumacher's chance of victory was fading.
One of the main differences between the modern era and the refuelling era is that speed differential at the start of a race is not always truly indicative of race pace. It appeared that Schumacher had elected for a low-downforce setup, but even more likely he had decided to run light at the start in the hopes of making up some places before loading up with fuel and slugging away during the middle phase of the race. Although I'm not especially keen to see refuelling return to F1 it's a dynamic element that we are currently lacking.
Whatever his race strategy was, an uncharacteristic mistake saw him understeer off the track and a random pile of turf saw his car leap into the air which prompted the team to call him in for a closer investigation.
Meanwhile back on track Fisi and Alesi were still comparing dicks, and when the latter firmly closed the door on the former they were both either shrivelled or mangled depending on whether I took this dicks metaphor too far. Fisichella insisted on holding the inside line when he clearly should have yielded to Alesi, rounding out the ways in which Fisi can be overtaken whilst causing a collision.
Alesi retired and promptly abandoned his car in the middle of the corner, i'm sure that he was looking for any excuse to rule a line under this miserable year he's having.
You'd be forgiven for not paying too much attention to David Coulthard's race this week, but as it turned out he achieved the maximum possible from where he started. After pitting early to replace his nose and front wing, he cut through the field and even momentarily took the lead when Hakkinen came in to the pits. It was enough to bring a smile to his girlfriend's face, and the TV crew took every opportunity to cut to her - although from what I can remember from DC's autobiography they both survive a plane crash before he trades her in for a younger model. Sorry, Heidi, these are the brakes.
Speaking of... [what I did there, did you see it?]
After being momentarily held up by his brother, Ralph "Spare" Schumacher, the next victim on Michael's (s)hit-list was team mate Eddie Irvine.
"I wonder if Irvine is going to start going slow," pondered Murray Walker, "for some reason."
Martin Brundle suggested a few ways that a team could legitimately claim their driver needed to slow down, remember this was during a period where racing orders were banned, which included claiming that the brakes were overheating.
As Schumacher cruised up behind his teammate pitlane reporter James Allen confirmed that a source inside the team had told him they were indeed going to use the "brake defence". Post race Michael was asked how it was that he so easily dispensed with the sister Ferrari to which he replied, "Well, we were marginal on brakes, both of us, and the team asked us to slow down."
He punctuated his reply with his trademark"aww-shucks" resting bitch face and everyone got on with their lives, because if you can't prevent team orders you may as well get rid of the ban, right?
Up next is the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.. not to be confused with the Luxembourg Grand Prix which is at the Nurburgring. Yeah I know, it's confusing.